Being an Indian Muslim has not been easy. Ever since the Partition, we have constantly been called upon to prove our patriotism and loyalty to India by panegyric proclamations and deeds. However, regardless of the propaganda against us by the RSS and such like, the Indian people have always known that Muslims are no less patriotic than any other daughters and sons of India.
Unfortunately, the practice of communally poisonous politics by narrow-minded politicians in our midst threatens this socio-political equilibrium that has held our composite culture in good stead. The latest example of this condemnable politicking is the speech by the Andhra Pradesh MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi at a political rally in AP’s Adilabad district. In his speech, Owaisi, a leader of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), made several vituperative and unwarranted comments denigrating Hindu deities.
I unequivocally condemn Owaisi’s vicious comments and reject his brand of politics, especially because it is only a naked attempt to create sectarian hatred for political gain.
It is an indisputable fact that the Hindu majority in India looks after the interests of Indian Muslims. Such an inclusive and syncretic culture has no place for hatred. Ours is a nation where everyone has equal rights. In fact, the idea of equality is inseparable from the core of India.
Unfortunately, parties like the Shiv Sena and the BJP have often resorted to hate speech against the minorities. Politicians like Bal Thackeray, Praveen Togadia and Varun Gandhi have built their political identities around statements that belong only to a politics of hate and division. All this should be stopped. We are governed by law. A case has been filed against Owaisi and I hope the strictest possible action is taken.
Worryingly, such speeches help Right-wing Hindu platforms to assert themselves as the protectors of the Hindus. Every time I interact in Parliament with Akbaruddin’s elder brother Asaduddin Owaisi, an MP from Hyderabad, we end up having the same argument about this issue.
I believe there is no need for Muslim political parties in India. If we have such parties, then we cannot point fingers at the Shiv Sena, the BJP, the RSS or the VHP, whose divisive agendas create communal disharmony. Instead, all political parties should adopt the ethos of our Constitution and work for all sections of society. And Muslims should search for a Gandhi among them, not for a Jinnah.
The foundations of this nation were built around Gandhian values and principles. Parties like AIMIM cater to small segments of the society that have a high concentration of Muslims. They feed off the insecurities of this section and project themselves as its protectors. They promote their own political aims while paying scant regard to the welfare of the community they claim to represent.
The Congress party is to blame for leading on the communal elements with its wink-and-nod approach. For instance, take the case of Khalistani separatist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was killed during Operation Bluestar in 1984. The Congress also paid homage to Bal Thackeray in Parliament despite his having been a champion of the politics of hate. Though our national political parties sometimes take the help of such fringe groups to stay in power, the Congress should take care not to associate itself with them.
Muslims are there in India by choice and not by compulsion. Islam is a religion of tolerance and does not propagate hatred in any form. The ethos of Islam leaves no room for statements that hurt the sentiments of others. Individuals are free to raise issues that impinge on their rights and take part in political activities without being hurtful to others.
It seems Owaisi’s speech was made with an eye on polarising voters as a build-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The Muslim community has been turned into a political football. Some abuse them, others sympathise with them, but few are willing to work for their welfare and their rights.
(Mohammad Adeeb is a Rajya Sabha MP)
In a conversation with Kunal Majumder, Siasat News Editor Amer Ali Khan talks about the controversy over Akbaruddin Owaisi’s “hate speech”